PSG stars Mbappé, Neymar fired up as French league resumes

PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar could take their frustrations out of World Cup-struggling Argentina when the French league resumes on Wednesday.

Coach Christophe Galtier said on Tuesday that both players are ready for PSG’s league leaders match at the Parc des Princes, even though Mbappe has had little time off since France lost the World Cup wildcard final to Argentina in Qatar on 18 December.

Mbappe became only the second player to score twice in the final but was inconsolable after Les Bleus lost on penalties to Argentina’s Lionel Messi following a 3-3 draw.

Still, Mbappe returned to training with PSG three days later.

“‘Kylian had great games, he was the tournament’s top scorer (with eight goals),'” Galtier said.

Galtier said Achraf Hakimi – who played for surprise semifinalist Morocco – and Mbappe are both ready for the Argentine and in second place Lens on New Year’s Day. The coach doesn’t think it’s a physical risk to pick them in consecutive matches so soon after the tournament.

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‘I do not think. Hakimi and Mbappe wanted to come back and play in these two games,” Galtier said. “As long as you’re in good shape physically and mentally, there’s nothing we’d miss playing them.”

Neymar’s training was updated on December 22nd and is very well documented.

“From a mental point of view, he really wants to play. It’s a good sign,” said Galtier, who promised that Neymar will not feel the effects of any delay from the right ankle injury he sustained in Serbia early in the Trophy.

Neymar broke down and couldn’t help but cry after Brazil lost to Croatia in the quarterfinals. He scored a superb solo goal to tie Pele’s national team score of 77 goals, but Croatia equalized deep into the period and then advanced on penalties. Brazil struggled in shooting to the extent that Neymar didn’t even get a chance to kick the team’s fifth.

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Messi scored twice in the final and calmly converted his side’s first penalty in a tense-relief match against France, capping a remarkable tournament that cemented his status as arguably the game’s greatest player and saw him join his idol Diego Maradona as a World Cup winner.

The 35-year-old Messi was given extra time to celebrate his success back home in Argentina and is expected to resume training from Jan. 3, Galtier said.

Even without a record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to contend with, Argentina still has two of the league’s top scorers to contend with. Mbappe has 12 goals and Neymar on 11 and 19. The Argentinian defense could be tough on the night.

Lens is five points behind PSG in second place and continues to the semi-finals of Nice on Thursday.

Third-placed Rennes visits five points adrift of Lens and Reims, while Marseille hosts fourth-placed Toulouse with those games also on Thursday.

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Nice coach Lucian Favre does not know when midfielder Aaron Ramsey joins the squad.

Favre was asked about Ramsey in the pre-match news conference and said that the Wales midfielder was still away.

‘Yes, he has not yet returned. I think the World Cup will be very difficult for him, so we’ll see,” Favre said, adding that he had not tried to contact the player. ‘Nobody. I could, but you will go.’

Ramsey played in all three of the national team’s World Cup games in Qatar, where Wales finished last in their group.

“He was very disappointed about the World Cup,” Favre said. ‘It takes time to really heal.’

Ramsey, who previously played for Arsenal and Juventus, has scored one goal in 16 games since joining Nice this season.

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